Friday, 30 September 2016

First Impression: Phase 2 Missions

Where to start with this. I'm going to be brutally honest, I was getting a little bored of the same 12 missions, of which I only play 7-8. I know there are some additional 'fun' ones, monorail and laser plus the attack/defend ones (which I have never done in my 4+ years of dzc), but the staple of my games are in tournaments or in between tournaments practicing, so the same mission crop up again and again. I can play them in my sleep. I know what I'm supposed to do, and more importantly what the opponent is supposed to do.

This location may be Critical!!
Well thank the gaming gods for Phase 2. It has taken the basic concept from the core rulebook & Phase one and added extra elements into them. It changes how you win the mission and most importantly, how you play the missions.

Well now you just have to read on.

I guess I'm going to start with the bit I'm not too happy with. The updated tournament scoring (kill points table). Don't get me wrong, I like the revamped table, I just don't think this should be in the book at all though. This kind of thing should be in the official tournament pack (which shouldn't have a date on btw). Hawk should have a document on their site with the official tournament rules, scoring etc. Having things like this in a rulebook is a tad bizarre. They can't easily update or change it, plus you are left with different versions in different books, take a look at Phase 1 (version 1.0) and Phase 2!

Ok, so the actual change then, the brackets for kill points has been widened to 300 points per bracket. I certainly agree with it, but it only works with 1500 point games. Another reason it should not be in the Phase 2 book. If you play a 1000 point game 300 points is 30% of your total, in 1500 it is 20% it doesn't scale well. The change is warranted though, I felt in previous tournaments, that there were too many bonus points being achieved from kill points, much more than winning the mission on VP's. This will tone it down, but I don't think it has gone far enough.

I would amend to have the following:
  • 0-99 points equates to 0 bonus, then start the 300 brackets from 100 onwards
  • Kill point bonus cannot be more than VP difference
I think this will mean more focus on winning the mission well, over purely killing the enemy. 
How I approach all my games.........

The Missions

The biggest change is the introduction of Critical Locations. they play similarly to Focal Points in that the way they are scored is by having the most units within a certain radius of the location. But the biggest change is that they score at the end of every turn bar the first.

The radius is 3" and there are no points for contesting either. A lot of the new missions employ Critical Locations in new and unusual ways, and I like it

Pre-Invasion I had played 4-5 of the new missions. Boy have I enjoyed them (marginally less so with one of them, but it was still really fun)

Using UCM vs Tim's Scourge at the club (lost)

At first look Careful Advance looks like Secure the Flanks. This was the mistake I made. I completely under-estimated how important the Critical Locations were. Duh, they are called CRITICAL locations for a reason!!

In StF winning the Objective race normally means a win in the mission. I did that in this new mission. I managed to stop Tim getting his 'home' objective and blew up his infantry in the central building. I found my 'home' objective and extracted it. In the mean time Tim was racking up Victory Points via the Critical Locations. I realised my mistake far too late to salvage the game. I thought I had some plans to claw it back, but it would have meant some un-godly dice rolls.

This was a hammer to the face learning curve, not only playing new missions but it was the first time I'd seen the Overseer in action. Brutal.

They say you learn more from your losses than from your wins, it's true. In StF objectives make up 6 VP's the Focal Points 4 VP's with 2 available for contesting, in Careful Advance you still have the 6 VP's for objectives, but the CL's give up a whopping 10 VP's. That means that the main emphasis must be on the CL's over objectives. This game was the main reason I was so down on the UCM in my Phase 2 review. Lack of speed and manoeuvrability really showed.

Using Scourge vs Joe's Resistance (won)

BEST. GAME. EVER. Seriously, I love this mission and Joe and I had a blast playing this game. It isn't like any current mission, so let me describe it to you. Are you sitting comfortably, then I shall begin....

Diagonal set-up with a Focal Point in the 'home' quarter and 3 Critical Locations diagonally across the middle in Bunkers. The twist. Only infantry inside the bunker can contribute towards the CL. There were pretty much 3 mini-games going on in the one game. First the game of stop the infantry entering the bunkers, then the game of owning the bunkers each turn and finally, the race and wanton destruction to own the Focal Points at the end.

So many different plans and sacrifices being used to soak up certain squads fire-power (zhukovs, I'm looking at you). The mission is so interesting. I can foresee that occasionally it will give some lop-sided results. If you lose important infantry early or by a freak accident (going to the deck and subsequently hitting that deck!!). The CL's will give up 15 VP's in this mission, so bring your best and brightest CQB monsters. Perhaps flame will make an appearance.

Final note, Joe hates Razorbirds..... I don't think I need to say more.

The only way to really hold a Critical Location

Using UCM vs Alex's Scourge (won)

Alex popped over for a mid-week game, he wanted to test out his new units, which happen to be Scourge based. I thought, as he was testing new stuff, so would I.

I recently traded my Talon points for new UCM shineys, so out came the Falcon B, Broadsword and Flak Team (they look like mortars.....still need to buy some).

On to the mission. 3 Objectives across the centre and a Critical Location on each side about 12" in centrally. The twist; if a Command unit is on the CL it gives your infantry a -1 modifier to their search rolls. The game, unfortunately was a bit of a non-starter by the end of turn 3. Alex made a mistake with his infantry early on by not becoming the occupier in a building I had gambled on. Which left me to put 4 units in. I had severely demolished the right hand building, enough to prevent Alex even attempting to put his Eviscerators in.

My Falcon B survived a shit storm of reaction fire (2 Reapers and 4 minders) to down the Eviscerators Intruder, then in turn 3 after Alex found an objective, the lone Falcon B survived yet more reaction  fire to take out the escaping Warriors Intruder and blew it up in mid-air, basically winning me the game, as I also found an objective and extracted it on turn 4. Alex tried to be daring and gave up his Critical Location for a chance to down my escaping Condor, but to no avail and I went on to win handsomely.

I can't believe the Falcon B won me the game, as I was so down on it in my UCM post. Actually, I wasn't down on it, I said it was great, but had no place other than as a lone-ship, which is exactly how I used it. Broadsword killed 1 hunter all game. 1 shot syndrome. I will use it again though.

The mission itself is pretty good, although I felt that the CL's were a bit of a non-game. It was a bit too easy to hold on to your own one. I really like that the objectives are all along the centre, as it means that a unit cannot find it and extract it straight away, it has to stay on the battlefield for a turn. Meaning if you have some devious plans, fast movers and other such things it can bring a little tension to the game.

Using Scourge vs Joe's Bullshit Brigade - Shaltari (lost)

The mission has 4 objectives in a + with a Critical Location in the dead centre. This kind of mission suits armies that can take and give out hits, the list I faced was Joe's Leopard brick with Dreamsnare. When that is occupying a Critical Location, good luck to you. 
The game was really exciting, my game plan from the start was to give up the Critical Location for turns 2 and 3, and go for winning them turns 4-6 with the proviso/assumption that we both get 2 objectives. 

Joe found his first objective with his first roll - pretty much standard Joe, I found mine early, we both went to seperate cenre buildings - dancing around each other. As predicted the Leopard brick sat on the CL, so I had to start whittling them down, my master plan revolved around me owning the CL on turn 4. My Overseer was key to this, but Joe is a canny player and placed his Panther in a perfect position ready to do horrendous naughtness to me. Turn 4 comes around and Joe is leading 6 vp's (4 for objectives, 2 for CL's) to 2 (1 objective off). I have removed 1 Leopard, another is wounded and the Firedrake is limping. As I activated first, I have to use my Overseer before the Panther, there is absolutely nowhere to keep it safe so I have to make a dash for the CL just to keep me in the game. Joe fires a volley at the Overseer and inflicts 5dp on it. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!!!! 

Turn 5 and I have 1 thing to do. Kill a Panther. I have 4 Hunters left and a Despoiler, the rock up to within range of the Panther (I chose extra range, should have chosen double shots!!) and did 1 dp anfter misses and passives grr. The Panther fired and actually did nothing, I was a lucky boy. I finally found my second objective and won the CL to make the score 6-6 going into the last turn. I win activation and I go with Hunters and Despoiler again, this time out of range of the Overseer so just normal. 3 Hunters and a Despoiler need to inflict 3 wounds on a PAnther or I lose. All but 1 hit, Joe makes a stupid amount of saves.....again and I do 1 dp. The Panther fires at the Overseer and drops it. The game ends 7-6 to Joe. Another great game 

Tournaments and Invasion
I sincerely hope that tournament organisers really look at the missions available to them now. You should be able to design a great tournament. A tournament with a varied selection of missions, some that suit certain builds, and some that suit others. It will make list design even more important (although we all know which race lends it's self to mission versatility the best).

One point I would make, is that missions with Critical Locations should be saved for game 3 or later (5 game tournament) as I feel there could be a large disparity if Vets get randomly drawn against new players. It won't happen all the time, but when missions are offering 15-20 VP's and a newer player doesn't really know what they are doing it could make for a disheartening experience.

Hopefully this new set of missions will make some of the poorer missions redundant. Personally I don't like missions that only score at the end of the game, which is all the Focal Point missions and ground control. I just don't find they engage you for the entire game. Bringing units on in turn 4, 5 or even 6 makes for a boring game.

So overall I am really happy with the new missions. Good job Hawk (with a little help from OB winky face)


  1. Cracking article Mike. I'm a UCM noob and finished last at Invasion this year. I ran into the problems you mentioned. Having a Ferrum and a Kodiak drive on left a lot of points unable to contribute to critical locations or focal points. I got the balance wrong versus infantry vs armour. Seems like the Phoenix is a must take. Maybe it always was, I haven't tried it yet.

    I've been trying to rejig my list to beef up the armour and I'm finding it harder to include the Ferrum. Very little movement and needs a transport to occupy a position. Take out the Kodiak, use Longbows for smoke and the need for scouts goes. The ability to split shots against the drones means I usually just get one round of shooting with all 8. Is the Ferrum no longer an auto include?

    Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with me about my list at Invasion. I'm planning to pick up some mortar teams and hazard suits at Derby Worlds this weekend as a result.

    Chris Sprules

    1. Hi Chris, hope you enjoyed Invasion even with the placement. Personally I find the Ferrum a certain auto-include at the moment. It has 2 play-styles, first is to be aggressive and go for stranded/undefended units. Second is to soak up AA reaction fire so that your more powerful aircraft can capitalise.

      Personally I love the Phoenix, it is however very unlikely to get you it's points back in kills, but it will win you games

  2. Glad to hear you liked them Mike, they were the last thing I did for Dropzone at Hawk and it's nice to know I got them right and people are enjoying them!

  3. Good write up. Thank you!

    I also like the non tournament missions as well. The station battle with connected battles and different gravity levels also makes those missions tons of fun. And the new critical location is a great addition to the game. And then we have that Swedish ground control...

    The only thing I might give a downside to the critical locations is that you can play around it even more. I like the command units controlling critical locations making it easier to find objectives but think that you could do even more. Oh time.


  4. Great post, Mike, thanks.

    I think CLs are a very important addition to the game. We got to play 2 missions (out of 2) with them in the 2,500 point event at the LVO this year, and I've really been looking forward to them! (PHR are damn slow at getting to CLs, too, even "fast" PHR, unless you take Hera's and/or Apollos in a Njord, which is a concept I just don't subscribe to in general, but...)

    What about the other "new" missions? You just wrote about CLs...

    What missions would you suggest for a 3 round event? I've got one coming up, and was thinking of using three just from Phase 2, but only one, maybe two with CLs. Interested in hearing your thoughts...

    1. Hey JD
      I didn't want to bloat the post too much. I will do an overview of the other missions, as well as some of the additional fun ones.

      For a 3 round event I would go for:
      Careful advance, Defence Line and Domination
      Careful advance, Crucible and Domination
      This gives a massive variety in mission type. The first set is very 'anti-drive on' though. Also lists set up for building demo would really suffer. I know the American meta is very heavy on drive-on demo.
      Also don't put Domination last - not a great last game

      My personal favourite mission is Defence Line, Dan doesn't agree about it being a tournament mission though

    2. Awesome, thanks, Mike!

      Yeah, I didn't expect you to wax poetic about the other missions here in the Comments -- just a poke to get you to write another blob post! LOL!

      Yeah, that's actually the three I was considering, Careful Advance, Defense Line and Domination, but as you say, not in that order. Gotta dig out my bunkers before the 15th for Defense Line. Crucible is interesting, but I don't think I'd include it with CA, at least not in a 3-game/1-day event -- they're too similar, IMHO. And, yeah, demo means squat in DL and D, but Flame is good in all of them. (Actually, my last game was Domination, and my Feral opponent quickly and decisively dropped a large center-ish building with a squad of my Valkyries in it on Turn 3, which changed the complexion of the game, so I wouldn't say that demo is squat, but ~drive on~ demo, yeah, that's just not as vital in those two missions, and that's kinda the point...)

      @Dan - Why don't you think DL is tournament worthy?